Monday, July 26, 2010


Tanking: to purposely lose a match, because of poor mental game or other reason...

Delete the word "purposely" and there you have it: my last tennis clinic. I tanked.

I didn't just play poorly during the 1-1/2 hour lesson; I collapsed. I couldn't move my feet, couldn't make contact with most balls, and couldn't look my instructor in the eye. I had one goal and one goal only: to make it through the clinic and to my car before I started crying.

It started so normally. This was my third clinic (meaning I was playing with several other ladies and my coach), so I didn't feel particularly nervous. It had been a good morning. And I was actually looking forward to playing after a couple of weeks off.

However, within the first few volleys I realized that things were not going well. The lobs my coach hit my way seemed to be in fast forward, and my feet were moving in slow-mo. My timing was off. And it spiraled down from there.

Now, every time I go to my tennis lesson or a clinic Tim encourages me, "Just have fun." Sounds simple enough, but for me...ugh. Not so simple. As my thoughts descended from frustration to failure, I watched the other ladies laughing at their gaffes and heaped more contempt upon my already slumping shoulders.

I wish I could just have fun with it. I wish I could silence the criticism. I wish I could see it for the tiny thing it is...but the fact is it doesn't feel so tiny. It feels huge and hard and true.

When I decided to take tennis lessons, I honestly knew this would be a part of the process. I was stepping into a fearful place and knew the journey wouldn't be one only of sunshine and success. However, the first few months have been utterly encouraging and hugely redemptive. So, when I found myself standing on the courts in the middle of this thunderstorm, I felt ambushed.

I dreaded my next lesson, facing my coach, and talking about the clinic. However, I scheduled it right away (gotta get back on the bicycle, and all of that...). When I arrived at the courts, I discovered that God had already arrived before me. The outdoor courts were full, so my coach and I found a quiet sanctuary in the empty indoor courts where we could enter into a spacious time of talking and teaching.

My coach is a young man who doesn't understand the weightiness of what's happening with me on the courts. And that is okay. It's surprising to me how God can use even those who are unaware of His purposes to accomplish them. But He can, and He is.

In The Healing Path, Dan Allender writes:

Disruption of shalom (peace) is the soil God uses to grow us to become the people we are meant to be...We will not move to become like him and know the sweet joy he desires for us if we are comfortable where we are. When our peace is shattered, the resulting doubt and confusion send us on a deeply personal search that can transform us and lead us to abundant joy...When the disruption compels us to search, we eventually find ourselves in a corner where are forced to turn and stand face to face with God. When will we encounter God? We can't predict. How will it change us when we do? We can't explain. But we remember moments when the search led us not to find, but to be found. We all know odd moments of epiphany that shake us to our bones with his presence and his words for us. And those moments lead us not only to trust him (a little bit more), but they serve as the foundation for our growing sense of who we are and who we are meant to become.
Allender's words resonate with me, and though I think of my next clinic with apprehension, I also feel expectant. I began tennis with the knowledge that I was entering into something much larger in my story. I was inviting this disruption for the sake of transformation. So I must choose, whether my next lesson ends in triumph or tears, to stay on the courts and keep swinging.

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